The Maharashtra Police on Wednesday filed murder charges against a land dealer who allegedly mowed down a 48-year-old journalist with his car in the Ratnagiri district, PTI reported.
The journalist, Shashikant Warishe, died on Tuesday. Several media organisations had demanded an inquiry into his death, saying that he had recently written against the land dealer named Pandharinath Amberkar, a supporter of a proposed refinery project in Ratnagiri.
The police alleged that Amberkar drove a vehicle that mowed down Warishe on Monday. The journalist succumbed to his injuries at a hospital in the Kolhapur district the next day.
Amberkar was initially arrested on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and charges of murder were added on Wednesday. The accused man has been remanded to police custody till February 13.
On February 6, Warishe had written an article in Marathi newspaper Mahanagar Times noting that Amberkar has been accused of serious crimes, and said that his photograph appeared on banners alongside those of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
His story in yesterdays Mahanagari times against Pandhari Ambedkar, (known Refinery baiter and biggest of the landsharks) proved to be Varise's last story. (4) pic.twitter.com/Y77TVpQDjy
— Hrushikesh (@Reashiee) February 7, 2023
Superintendent of Police Dhananjay Kulkarni said that the authorities will interrogate Amberkar to ascertain his motive, The Indian Express reported.
Vinayak Raut, an MP from the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena, said that he will write a letter to PM Modi and demand a discussion on the refinery. “The death is not accidental but a clear foul play and an attack by the land broker,” he said.
The Shiv Sena had opposed the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical project, which was originally planned at the Nanar village in Ratnagiri. Protestors had claimed that the project would cause large-scale environmental pollution and displace 17 villages in the districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
Subsequently, the project was proposed to be moved to the Barsu-Solgaon area.
On Wednesday, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties expressed shock at Warishe’s death and called for an immediate stop to land acquisition for the project.
“PUCL [Maharashtra] believes that the killing of the journalist is designed to silence and intimidate all those who dare to speak up and to uncover the intimidation and land-grab that has been going on in the name of acquisition of land for the project,” it said.
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